Janet Cooper - Daisy Betts
Joe Tucker - Jason Wiles
Graham MacNair - Chadwick Boseman
Moira Doherty - Tina Holmes
Charlie Morse - Alan Ruck
Tori Fairchild - Kate Lang Johnson
Bill Blackham - Sean O'Bryan
Mark Renbe - Gerald Kyd
Kat Damatto - Lola Gaudini
Erika Taylor - Kandyse McClure
OTHER ODD PLACES TO WAKE UP
The Prisoner (2010)
Janet is kidnapped and wakes up in a locked room in a hotel with no idea how she got there. She is not alone, with six other people in the same situation. They try to leave, but are rendered unconscious. There is a chinese restaurant with staff who are terrified and don't speak much english. Every move is being watched and Janet is told by a fortune cookie that to go free she must kill her neighbour.
The influences for PERSONS UNKNOWN are plain to see. The vogue for reality television shows has brought about ever more extreme versions of shows with people locked together in isolation. The ensemble cast and the invisible barriers resemble LOST and the surreal nature of the town square in the middle of nowhere is straight out of The Prisoner. None of which makes it any less intriguing.
There are no major stars in the cast, which means that the characters are expendable, but Janet and Joe are clearly the Kate and Jack of this show. Joe is mysterious about his background and Janet seems wholesome, but clearly is not thanks to the establishing shot of her kidnapping. Of the others, only Moira the mental patient makes any real impact.
The outside world stuff in which a maverick reporter gets wind that something is up and decides to run the story down despite his editor's demands is nothing new and a sad diversion from what is going on in the town square, taking away some of the mystery since it anchors events to the 'real world'.
The 'fainting on the edge of town' scene is spooky, even if it is borrowed wholesale from the movie VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED and has a real world explanation here.
PERSONS UNKOWN isn't perfect, but it has enough of a mystery going for it to keep us interested and hopefully the characters will continue to develop.Top
Moira removes the implants that cause them to faint when they reach the town's edge, but there is another, more dangerous, barrier beyond. The mysterious night manager becomes the target of some forceful 'questioning'. A thunderstorm leads to a breakout attmept and in the outside world Mark is forcibly warned off the case.
More hints are given as to why the abductees are in the town when it becomes clear that one is the daughter of an ex-head of the CIA, suggesting that the town square is a place that the rich and powerful send people that they find 'troublesome'.
The mystery of the night manager remains as the barriers let him through and he is returned in perfect condition despite having been totally busted up.
Most of the characters remain cyphers in the show, which is disappointing, but there is still enough mystery going on to keep interest up.Top
The Way Through
A helicopter drops off a case containing gas masks, but not enough for everyone. As the tension mounts waiting for a full on gas attack, the group starts to unravel'
The mystery of the town square and the abductees continues. The gas mask routine is obviously some sort of test or psychological warfare, but there is no hint as to what the purpose might be.
The tension is kept up with the smaller gas attacks and the final assault is a nice twist, but the lack of information is getting a little wearing.
Events in the outside world are also a bit repetitive, but do have a final twisted card to play.Top
Janet is told that she can leave and take one person with her. She chooses Joe. The taxi that they are in is destroyed and they face a night alone in the wilderness.
It's always obvious that Janet and Joe aren't going to be allowed to leave that easily and so it's a matter of how they are going to be returned to the town. The fact that they end up in a bee infested house just after he tells her that he's allergic is pretty suspicious.
The subplot about what happened to Charlie's wife is fun and comes to a satisfying conclusion, for now at least. The characters are starting to round out and that makes the mystery and the lack of answers easier to take. There is one big reveal that moves things along a bit.Top
Tori is gone from the town and the abductees believe she is OK, but the outside world knows that she is dead. A new woman arrives in town and turns out to be almost feral, so when she is locked in the bank vault with Janet, Joe goes on the warpath.
People are starting to suspect the truth about Joe, which is the arc plot chugging away behind the action provided by the new character of Erika, an ex-con insofar as she was executed for her crimes before ending up in the town. She goes through the whole episode like a whirlwind, ramping up the intensity and shaking things up in a very welcome way.Top
Renbe and Kat go to Italy to chase down a lead connecting Janet and Tori. In the town, Joe gets ill and suspects that his employers have poisoned him. One person has the cure, but wants the truth known.
The events in Italy are wholly unbelievable and undermine everything that is happening in the town. Not only do the newspaper duo dress up as a priest and a nun, but they fall in horribly stereotyped mafia folk.
In the town, Erika continues to be the most fascinating character, setting her sights on Janet and not caring what she has to do to get her.Top
Smoke And Steel
Now that Joe's involvement in the mysterious 'program' is known, the abductees react by nearly killing him to force their escape. Janet struggles with her feelings for him and what he has done. Renbe and Kat are chased out of Italy by new enemies, and friends.
Once again, events happening outside of the town are of the utmost lack of interest and are pretty unbelievable as well. They discover some of the truth, but not enough.
Inside the town, the show suffers from the bane of this kind of show, which is that conversations are never seen through and the most straightforward of questions is never given a straight answer. Joe claims that the program is a good thing for making people hugely important, but not how or why. Secret dossiers are found that give out some more of the abductee's history and cause some consternation. It's all very slickly done and moves very smoothly whilst on screen, but suffers more when you stop to think about it, especially all those unanswered questions.
The fight scene in the kitchen is pretty gruesome as well.Top
Joe undergoes as serious of hallucinogenic 'trips' as part of a session of 'reprogramming' in a white room. Janet struggles with what has happened to him. Kat and Renbe find out about Joe's past from the one person who escaped the 'program'.
Joe's 'reprogramming' is a chance for the show to let its hair down and go totally mental with all kinds of wierd and wonderful visual images and dialogue exchanges that sound like they're meaningful and portentous, but are pretty much pointless.
The discovery of Joe's backstory is interesting and a shock that works to give his character a bit more depth, but the whole sequence with a woman who has supposedly escaped from the program, but is constantly monitored makes no sense when Tori was murdered. But then again, was she?Top
Joe is returned to the town, but doesn't remember any of the other abductees or what happened. The night manager is thrown full into the fray and Janet looks for a way to break Joe's programming before the others decide to kill him.
The sudden appearance of the command structure behind the town and the 'program' demystifies events considerably and that's not altogether a good thing. Another thing that isn't good is the romantic reconciliation between Kat and Renbe whilst they are on the run through the landscape being shot at by armed killers. Convincing it is not.
Joe's story at least is interesting and comes to a dramatic conclusion. The twist for Kat and Renbe is also surprising.Top
The new Night Manager locks everyone in the hotel whilst the town is 'cleansed'. Kat and Renbe take shelter in the bank from the armed guards. Everyone receives souvenirs of their past lives.
The intended twist regarding the town that Kat and Renbe walk into is initially confusing and then strung out far too long. The mind games being played with the presents are a pleasing return to the original concept of the show, but the arrival of the new night manager is met with such little comment as to be utterly ridiculous.Top
Janet decides to turn her back on Joe and unleashes the full charm offensive on the night manager, looking for a way out. Renbe and Kat are arrested at the airport for trying to smuggle in severed thumbs.
Whilst there are lots of nice character moments between the abductees in the town, there is only one story going on here and that is the seduction attempt by Janet on Liam. Unfortunately, since they have only the single running time of this one episode to explore it in, the man's response is never believable for a second. With a relationship spread over a few episodes it might have worked, but the man's fall from grace is too rapid.Top
And Then There Was One
The town is to be sterilised and only person will walk out alive. The extermination will be carried out by making the abductees turn on each other. Janet is determined to prevent this, but one by one they fall.
This is the day that the show has been building up to all along and the way in which the characters turn on each other is surprising and brutal and all the better for it. The twists and turns come quickly towards the end and it's a really fun rollercoaster that isn't punctured by the slow start or the (relatively few) trips into the outside world.
The fate of Liam the night manager is as surprising as it is terminal.
There is one huge twist to come at the end and in the cold light of day the plot doesn't stand up to scrutiny, but whilst it's happening this is the show at its very best.Top
Shadows In The Cave
The abductees are on the run for their freedom. Joe is being questioned. The only person who has a plan is Janet and that makes her the most obvious target for recapture as she tries to reach her daughter again.
Now that the prisoners are free, the story is fragmented and, Janet aside, nobody gets the screen time that they deserve in this last episode, making it a somewhat unsatisfactory swansong.
The show continues to throw out new avenues to explore with the arrival of the new 'council', but the machinations of the plot also have minor characters changing sides at the whim of the writers rather than in any sort of coherent way.
And of course there's a cliffhanger. Well in this case there are two. Sadly, the answers will not be found.Top
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